The Beach 2 Battleship Half Iron Distance Tri is done. Mission Accomplished. What a whirlwind! I really don’t even know where to start, so I guess I’ll start from the real tri prep last week to paint the full picture of the race experience. This is long, but I didn’t want to leave anything out, partly because it’s nice to be able and look back at this and partly because it shows how much you have to friggin’ do before a tri!
I started making a list of things that I thought I would need in transition two weeks before the race. I did this for Boston and it was really good to have a notebook where I could just add items when I thought of them. There’s things you may not think of, like sunglasses and chapstick (an absolute essential for me), so when I thought of something, I just wrote it down. I revised the list a few times the week of the race, and ended up with a nice, complete pile of things that I would need. I thought marathon list-making was tedious, but with triathlons, there’s just a lot more to think about. By the time Tuesday had rolled around and I got all the groceries I would need for the week, I totally shirked all my other responsibilities around the house. Had it been a few more days, mayhem would have ensued and the dust bunnies that are primarily composed of cat hair would have probably taken over the entire house.
On Wednesday, I started my pre-race partial carb loading like I do for marathons. I don’t do pure carbs like many do because I get the dreaded carb crash “they” talk about and end up hungry and jittery. I have to mix in a lot of protein, so basically, I ate a LOT of well-balanced meals. I had lunch with two other half distancers (not sure what else to call us besides “participants also doing the half iron distance” or something long like that) and our coach. Her main advice was this: SWIM – know where you are at all times. BIKE – drink, drink, drink. RUN – don’t go out too fast, pace yourself. We talked a little more specifically about the bike hydration/nutrition and I got totally confused on what I was going to do. I have an aero bottle that holds about 30 ounces plus two other bottle holders on my bike, and I knew I needed close to 25 ounces an hour, some water and some with my EFS in it, but I didn’t know how I was going to coordinate it all. Coach also said we needed about 300 calories an hour total and not much more to overwhelm our systems, so my mind started blacking out and I think I actually short circuited my brain. I had a plan already in place in my head, and this was just too much for my fragile mind to wrap itself around.
I went home and wrote my requirements out, then found the calorie content of my energy bars, chews, and EFS. Then I ignored it. My mental state, other than the bike hydration/nutrition stuff, was fine. I was getting excited, but I wasn’t nervous. I was calm. No big, right? Just an event I haven’t done and 70.3 miles to cover, right? Yeah, I was excited to just get on with it!
On Thursday, I had brunch with an experience triathlete friend of mine to see if I could get any other information she deemed necessary for my race. The theme was how important it is to hydrate and eat during your bike. Basically, you’re riding 56 miles to run a half marathon, so don’t be stupid! It was nice to talk to her, and she is in taper mode for her first full Ironman this coming weekend, IM Florida. Good luck, Renee, you’ll kick ass!!!! One other VERY good tip I got from her was to put a tiny drop of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo in my goggles, rub it around, let it dry, then rinse it out. This was to hopefully prevent them from fogging up considering it was cold and my body was not. After our lunch was over, and I was TOTALLY jacked up on coffee and diet coke, I went to the grocery store and got some baby shampoo to at least hedge the probability of my goggles fogging over, which is a huge pain in the ass.
After the shampoo stop, I headed to the bike shop to pick up an extra tube so I would have two, because I just knew the tire would be flat when I checked on my bike before the race on Saturday. I was CERTAIN it would be dead as a door nail, so I wanted to be prepared.
I headed down town to packet pickup, so I could digest everything and not rush in getting my transition bags ready. There were a lot of people already there, and it was very fast and easy to get all my stuff for the race. I thought the expo was nice and the music was good and loud, but also sort of lame. For one of the best iron distance triathlons in the world, I figured there would be more vendors peddling their wares, sucking me in to spend money on things I don’t necessarily need. I enjoy looking around and seeing cool stuff. There weren’t many there, so I walked and got sucked into the compression sleeve zone and bought a set. I refused to buy a 70.3 sticker since I hadn’t done one and if something came up and I had a DNF, I didn’t want the thing whispering “you failed” at me. Near the exit of the expo, they had a chip check, THANKFULLY, and it registered just fine. But that’s when I realized I didn’t have the ankle strap the chip is attached to in my packet. I wound myself around to the actual packet pickup area and got one. One of the ladies casually said, “Oh I guess we missed one”, which I was HORRIFIED to hear, because what if someone like me didn’t know you were supposed to have one and THEN WHAT??! Gasp. Well, I guess most people have been to triathlons before so they knew what they were doing. I got one and wound through the expo again, picking up a small purple PPD football for my boys along the way, also confusing some of the people selling stuff because they were looking at me like, “you look familiar”.
I headed home and started to get my transition bags decorated before the kids got home from school. I spent the rest of the night organizing, checking things off my list, eating, and just hanging with my older son while my husband took the young one to football practice. I didn’t know why, but I was way mellow, and I didn’t know if/when the nerves were going to hit. Thank you to Kecia from PushMyLimits for her words of encouragement that ended up on my transition bags.
On Friday morning, I had a mini tri workout scheduled and had arranged to meet a friend at the beach so we could do ours together. The swim was a little weird since I hadn’t been in the water for about a week and a half, but once I got into the groove, it was fine. We swam for about 12 or so minutes, then we headed out on our bikes for about 15 minutes. After our bike, we had a 10 minute run. I felt good. This was the first time I’d ever done a swim, bike, and run all together, so it was good to at least have a mini practice before the race.
After that, I went home and got my gear ready to drop off. I had to head back to the beach to drop my bike and T1 bag off, then back down town to drop my T2 bag off. Because I didn’t want to be alone, my husband came along with me. Thanks, Andy! It was really good to see so many people from my running group, too, so I did get in a good amount of gabbing at our stops.
I hadn’t eaten much and we didn’t have time to eat down town so we could be home to get the boys off the bus, so we stopped at Whole Foods and got one of their huge chicken pesto sandwiches. Delightful! I started to really feel like shit at this point, and didn’t know why. I wanted to take a nap but knew that if I did, I’d never sleep that night. I was worried I’d wake up with a sore throat, the flu, or ebola. I didn’t know what the heck was going on, but I was nervous. I felt like complete crap the entire week before Boston, so I figured it was just part of the game, but still, was worried.
I FINALLY decided on my bike hydration/nutrition late Friday evening. I would have one 24 oz bottle with concentrated EFS to keep the entire ride, my aero bottle would be filled with water, then one additional bottle of water. I would try to drink two of the aero bottles and the EFS bottle, if not more, but I knew from past experience, I probably wouldn’t drink more than that. I cut up my bonk breaker bars into pieces so they would be easy to grab out of my pouch as I rode, and I took out my two packages of blocks and honey stinger chews and put them into a baggie so I could eat them at the end of the bike in preparation for the run.
I went to bed around 9:30 with two alarms set for 4:00 am and 4:05 am. I slept like a rock! I wasn’t really thrilled at getting up, but I woke up without nerves and got ready to race. I had taken a bunch of extra clothes to Goodwill a few weeks ago, holding back one pair of shoes that I could have at the swim start. There’s no bag drop there, so anything you’re wearing that doesn’t swim with you, you do not get back. I bought an Ohio State jacket and had an extra sweatshirt and my shoes, so was good to go. Until I tried to put my shoes on. D’oh! I saved two lefties, so I ditched that plan and brought a pair of flip flops I didn’t like instead.
Things were “working out” the way they were supposed to, and my sister picked me up at about 5:40 so we could get to the beach before the traffic hit. Things were so smooth, and I had to wonder if it was going too well. The forecast was perfect. No wind. It was going to be slightly warmer than what I prefer for the run, but I knew that I needed to just be smart, and be careful. I couldn’t salt bonk for two of my biggest races in one year, so I was determined to be smart about it.
When we got to the transition area, which is where we were to catch the trolley to the swim start, it was abuzz with energy. It was so cool! I love the pre-race vibe! I checked on my bike -THE TIRES WERE FULL OF AIR!! YIPPEEEEEE!!!!! filled them to 120#, and got body marked.
I. Was. Ready.
I’m going to keep writing as soon as I post, so stay tuned (if you made it this far!) for the actual race recap!